Moving day, Oscar night

Coming to Kansas, April 2002

My daughter was keeping score in the little Academy Awards contest we had between us. She’s 16, and there’s an attraction of glitz and glamour to this annual affair. She’s scoping out the guys, too, I’m sure.

My son, meanwhile, was making popcorn and waiting for the Lord of the Rings to win all the awards it was nominated for. It’s the only movie he really cared about. He’d be asleep on the floor before long.

To be honest, I was only mildly interested in the show. I was curious, yes, but I was several degrees removed from involvement. So as I kept one eye on the show and one hand scooping popcorn into my mouth, the rest of my body was packing books and videotapes, CDs and things like that into boxes destined for Kansas. It will be moving day pretty soon. And I approach that realization sadly sometimes.

All the music tapes I’d recorded over the years – mostly during the time I’d spent living above the Boardwalk in Makanda – filled a box and a half. Would I ever listen to them again? Who listens to cassettes anymore? I stacked the box of tapes next to the bed in spare room, which had become a collection point, the departure gate, the boarding area for this move. All the stuff – old toys the kids once played with but don’t have any interest in anymore, board games that date back to when I was a boy, my baseball car collection, maps and posters and a ball glove – all the stuff  I’d stashed in closets over the years, all of that ended up in this room, packed and stacked and lined up ready to go. Boarding time two weeks, the line forms any time.

The best supporting actor’s award goes to Jim Broadbent. Who? We both got that one wrong. Rachel made a couple of marks on her score sheet and Tom took a pillow to the floor. He wasn’t very interested any more. And he wasn’t even going to pretend.

My favorite parts of these shows are the retrospectives., those film collages that highlight a particular actor’s body of work. Robert Redford and Sidney Pointier both had tributes. I remember those films that flashed so briefly on the screen – I’ve seen them all – I remember when they were new.

Old magazines. Damn, do I really need to keep them? Will I ever read them? Should I sift them one more time?

Old photographs. I’d better not get started. At one point, years ago, I’d gone through them and organized them into piles. The children in various stages of their lives, old friends grouped in the various stages of my life. I didn’t need to go through that again. Boxes of photos – old scrapbooks and a shoebox of images – were stacked there now next top the magazines and tapes. I stepped back to survey the scene, and for a moment the boarding area, the departure gate, resembled a triage, a temporary morgue. The bodies of former lives laid out in rows waiting to be identified and toe-tagged.

There is a sadness here, there is no denying that. To look at all this stuff – some of which will make the journey with me, some of which will not – is to look into the faces of people I will leave behind. And to examine painfully, the deeds I’ve left undone. I remember them all. I remember when they were new.

Tom stirred. He’d fallen asleep on the floor. The big awards were still to come, but it was late for a school night. Rachel wanted to see the end of the show, but she needed sleep as well. So I drove them both back across town to their mother’s home, kissed them both. Call me tomorrow. Work hard, have fun, be good. That’s all you need to do. That’s all a father can hope for. And I watched them disappear inside and the door close behind them. 

When I got back home, I watched the rest of the show. It was the black actor’s night. Poitier, Halle Berry, Denzel Washington. A Beautiful Mind and Ron Howard won. It was about time and, yes, I remember when Opie lived in all-white Mayberry.

When all the awards had been handed out and all the acceptance speeches made, the curtain fell and I turned off the TV. Lights out. I was through for the evening.

Every time we move, we shed a skin. We distill our treasures, we lighten the load. I won’t be bringing all of those magazines. And we also re-examine where we are in life – renew old friendships and take stock of the things that enrich us. I’ve been fortunate. I feel wealthy.

I think it is a good thing to do this every now and then. It’s healthy.  Yes, there is sadness in the thing we leave behind – no things so much as people and place. But the prospect of melding treasures and merging memories in a different place brings my joy. And I look forward, not behind. It is time for this scene to end. Fade to gray and move on to the next act in this movie that is my life.

— 30 —

Collected written works  |  Gary Marx


Looking for a Chicago

    Dog in Cow Town

In Death’s Waiting


Living in Interesting


Remembering 9/11

In Defense

    of Meandering

O Little Town

     of Mythlehem

A Minor Distraction

Giving the Computer

    the Boot

The Depth of These


Musings on the Plaza,

    and a World at War

The Tale of the

    All-Seeing Bob

Morning Drive

    on the First Day

Fruit Stands in October